top of page

Chunky fireplace mantels and surrounds: Ultramodern or transitional?

Fireplaces hugely impact the look and feel of the entire home–so much so, in fact, that I end up addressing them in nine out of every ten client projects I work on. I’m always looking for fireplace design ideas and lately, just as we’ve seen with bathroom vanities, I’m seeing a rise in the popularity of simple, chunky fireplace mantels and surrounds in stone and cast concrete. Let me be clear in saying that just because something suddenly becomes popular doesn’t mean it’s just a passing trend. In my over two decades as an interior designer who always chooses timeless over trendy, I’ve noticed that occasionally something comes into popularity that’s actually a reemerging classic. I think these chunky fireplaces fall firmly into that category.

Chunky fireplace surround in stone against a light wood paneled wall and flanked by built-ins in a California-style space.
Image via Studio McGee

While in the past, big stone fireplace mantels and surrounds may have featured ornate detailing and carvings, this time around, the designs are more straightforward and sleek. As a result, people may think they can only be used in very modern interiors, but I respectfully disagree.

Because these new chunky fireplace designs would look appropriate (and, in fact, would elevate the style) in so many different types of homes from ultra-modern to traditional to transitional and everything in between, I actually think they’re best described as ‘transitional’.

Keeping the colors light for these mantels and surrounds offsets the visual weight of the chunky designs and keeps them from looking medieval. Not to mention, it creates a cool, high-contrast element against the dark interior of the fireplace box.

In terms of materials for these designs, I love just about any light-colored stone such as marble, quartzite, or limestone, as well as concrete stained or painted in a bright or creamy white.

The addition of intriguing textures like fluting or reeding to these fireplaces can still be subtle, understated, and clean-looking. It’s not an overly strong, ‘look at me!’ statement, which means you can still add a dramatic piece of art over the mantel without the effect completely taking over the room.

Although to be fair, such architecturally impactful fireplaces like these are truly art in and of themselves!

I love the juxtaposition between a modern, clean surround and the patchwork effect of a masonry top. What a perfect way to update a more traditional stone fireplace! (Incidentally, the painting shown here is by Joelle Somero, whom we included in our Designer Tips For Choosing Art For Your Home post). Did I convince you that these chunky fireplace mantels and surrounds can be interpreted in a variety of different ways and don’t have to be relegated to ultra-modern homes? At the very least, I hope you’ve gained an appreciation of their beautifully impactful merits.

If you’re in the San Franciso area and are currently giving your own fireplace the side-eye. wondering how to update it (and your living room, kitchen, etc.) to elevate your home’s style, reach out to me and my team!


bottom of page